Always Watching

Top Ten 1990’s TV Theme Songs

In 1990's TV, Beverly Hills 90210, Dawsons Creek, Frasier, Freaks and Geeks, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Friends, Mad About You, My So-Called Life, Party of Five, Roseanne, Television History, Theme Songs on 04/21/2009 at 1:14 pm

While watching the entirety of Party of Five season 1 back to back on my laptop I was struck by the lack of a theme song for the first four episodes. A title card would simply flash across the screen and I wondered what on earth had happened to the well known guitar intro to The Bodean’s Everyone Wants To Be Free. Finally, on episode five it appeared.

I don’t remember if the original broadcasts of the first four were theme-less or not but this got me thinking about all the great theme songs I knew and loved from my teen years. So here it is, my first top ten:

Rosanne. ABC 1988-1997.

A raunchy sax jam remniscent of a sleazy vaudvillian strip tease juxtaposed with a laughing family eating dinner. The song fit the dysfunctional comedy to a T. Roseanne Barr‘s evil sounding cackel ending the theme was just the cherry on top, hinting towards the trashy, dark humor the show was full of.

Download MP3.

Frasier. NBC 1993-2004.

Frasier was a pompous jackass and so it would be that his theme song follow suit. Sung by Kelsey Grammer himself, the song is a throw back to the old crooner days, though singing about tossed salad and scrambled eggs is not something Old Blue Eye’s would have done.

Download MP3.

Dawsons Creek. WB 1998-2003.

Though a radio hit pre-Dawson, Paula Cole‘s overly dramatic I Don’t Want To Wait ushered in the overly dramatic teen lives of Dawson, Pacey and Joey. The urgency and desperation of the lyrics mirrored the characters desperation to be grown ups and the song managed to keep the Lilith spirit alive into the new century.

According to the shows Wikipedia page the theme song was originally going to be Hand In My Pocket by Alanis Morissette, but she denied the use of her song. Talk about kismet. Had Morissette allowed her song to be used it probably would have changed the whole feel and possibly direction of the show.

For international airings the producers were forced to use songs other than I Don’t Want To Wait and a quick youtube search pulls up some awkward, not quite right intros. I suppose if you don’t know any better they seem to fit but for a kid from the U.S., it’s a bit off putting, like seeing your family dog walk upright and ask you where the bathroom is. It just doesn’t fit your previous impressions of how things should be.

Download MP3.

Friends. NBC 1994-2004.

Ah the snappy, poppy, upbeat sounds of The Rembrandts. Hand claps, lyrics portraying the downsides of life yet remaining positive, dancing in a park, playing in a fountain. The Friends intro had it all.

Download MP3.

Mad About You. NBC 1992-1999.

Paul Reiser, star and producer of Mad About You actually penned the theme song, Final Frontier. It’s a catchy piano based love song played over lovey-dovey shots of the show’s married head characters living life in New York City. As a teen watching this week after week my life ambitions, all completely failed, of course, were heavily influenced by this 30 second spot and it’s show.

Download MP3.

Freeks and Geeks. NBC 1999-2000.

The bad old days of high school. The best days of your life and yadda yadda what the heck ever. High school sucked for most of us and for those not born with athletic talent or good looks, who better to sum up our very existence than the queen of bad girls, Joan Jett, and the so perfectly fitting Bad Reputation. If only Judd Apatow had produced this show after he became so crazy famous we may have made it further than just one season.

Download MP3.

Beverly Hills 90210. Fox 1990-2000.

Oh you know it well: badda-badda-donna-donna-chh-chh, playful punch from Jason Preistly to Luke Perry. It was air guiatar heaven backed by preppy early 90’s fashion, lovingly joined by sax jam outs and keyboards capped off by a simple synth ending. Fantastic.

Download MP3.

My So-Called Life. ABC 1994-1995.

Oh the drama, the depression, the anxiety. And Juliana Hatfield as an angel. Of all the teen dramas to surface in the 90’s I’ll proudly admit that My So-Called Life was not only my favorite but the most like my actual teen life. And so a deep bond and everlasting love affair was formed in my life. I still get a bit teary-eyed each time I see the opening.

The song starts slowly with a soft “Go…Now. Go.” like we’re joining Angela in sneaking out of the house, avoiding grumpy parents, en route to a gothy coffee house to listen to Jordan play Ramones covers. A mid tempo Enya-esque song kicks in, the perfect soundtrack to teenage discovery, first kisses and broken hearts, not a single lyric, just atmosphere and hopefulness.

Download MP3.

Party of Five. Fox 1994-2000.

A blasting guitar the likes of Beverly Hills 90210 could only hope for perks up the ears and off we go into the lively, TV friendly world of The Bodeans. Everyone truly does want to be closer to freee-heee-heee.

Download MP3.

And in the number one spot, this wasn’t even really a competition. If you read the title of this post you should have known right away as there is no such thing as competition when it comes to this theme song.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. NBC 1990-1996.

I know every single word by heart. I can recite said song from the top of my head without any music. I could probably do this in my sleep. There was a time I could even act the scene out.

Even before Quincy Jones came calling, Will Smith was known in hip hop circles and to MTV fans as half of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. The prince himself became famous for his family friendly, snarky and comedic rapping style and this theme song, though performed by Will Smith and Quincy Jones III, not Jazzy Jeff as one might assume, played right into that tradition.

Unfortunately, after the third episode the theme song was nearly cut in half for time reasons but it’s out there and you can get the full version below.

Download MP3.

Thanks to Televisiontunes.com for the downloads.

Store.HBO.com

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